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The Professionals

The Professionals by Stephen Mills

Strategy, Money and the Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia

"The Professionals" tells the story of how Australian election campaigns and political parties have changed, from the pre-television era through to the social media/ micro-targeted campaigns of today. Who drives this change? The campaign professionals in the party head offices.

The book, awarded the Henry Mayer Book Prize for Australian Politics 2015, was based on my PhD research and is available from Black Inc. For more details:

Overview of "The Professionals"

Election night, September 2013: Addressing cheering supporters, Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott singled out the Liberal Party’s federal director for special praise. Brian Loughnane had "run our most professional campaign ever." The compliment conceals important questions at the heart of contemporary Australian politics. What is a professional campaign - and how, if at all, does it translate into electoral success? What does it mean to “run” such a campaign? How was this "most professional" of campaigns different from those that went before in the Liberal Party – and from those of the defeated Labor Party? Can indeed the professionalism of such campaigns be measured? Are professional campaigns good campaigns?

And what makes Brian Loughnane a campaign professional? To most of Abbott’s television audience, his name would scarcely be familiar. One of the defining characteristics of party officials such as Loughnane is that they remain out of sight. Their work takes place largely in secret, in Head Offices and campaign headquarters not easily accessible to the media, voters or party members. They have managed to avoid scrutiny by the media and academics have largely ignored them. As a consequence, we have lacked a convincing account of who the campaign professions are, what they do, and how they have come to exercise influence in Australian politics. These are the types of questions I'm interested in exploring in my research on 'Campaign Professionals.'



Stephen's recent talk on the ABC's Big Ideas program:

  Click to watch the highlight video here, or

  Click to watch the full-length video here



Stephen Mills

I am honorary senior lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. My primary research interest is election campaign management and political parties. I served as speechwriter to Prime Minister Hon RJL Hawke (1986-91), and before that I was a journalist and editor for Fairfax newspapers 'The Age', 'Australian Financial Review' and 'Sydney Morning Herald'. I have more than 10 years experience in corporate affairs and issues management in the Australian financial services sector. I have a PhD from the University of Sydney (2013) and a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School (1985). My book The New Machine Men (1986) dealt with the first applications of public opinion polling and TV advertising in Australian elections.

Browse this site to find my earlier publications dealing with Australian election campaigns and political parties. I'm also interested in market research, campaign strategy, and public sector leadership.  I'd be happy to get your comments and feedback about anything on this site, by email at

Stephen Mills